Laska had lived for years in unacceptable conditions in the rundown Pokrovsk Zoo near the town of Donetsk. Previously, she had been kept as a fighting bear and abused to train hunting dogs. In her new home, she can now rest in an environment suited to her species. A court decision will decide whether Laska can stay permanently at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, as the confiscation order is only temporary for now.
FOUR PAWS had planned to bring the approximately five-year-old bear to her new home by the end of 2018, however, the decision-making process by authorities regarding her confiscation delayed the rescue until early 2019. After more than 1,000 kilometres and 22 hours, Laska has arrived safely in her new home.
"We are glad that after a long wait, we finally got the green light from the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology. In the meantime, Laska was brought to another private zoo with some other animals. Although she was cared for better than in Pokrovsk, the circumstances were still not ideal. BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr specialises in the care of baiting bears, thus it is the best place to take care of her.”
Carsten Hertwig, FOUR PAWS bear expert
Hertwig continued: “Laska is doing well, the transfer was carried out without any further delays. Our team thoroughly examined her before leaving, and she will now receive the veterinary care she needs in the bear sanctuary. Her teeth, in particular, are in poor condition and need treatment.”
Laska was already released into her enclosure soon after her arrival.
Court ruling in March to decide Laska's future
Currently it is unclear whether Laska will stay at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr – an official court decision is still pending. But since Laska's owner, who also owns the zoo in Pokrovsk, is currently in prison for other offences, it is unlikely that the court will rule in his favour.
“The legal situation regarding the private keeping of wild animals in Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. But we are optimistic and assume that Laska will be allowed to stay in the sanctuary. She has experienced nothing but suffering in the care of her owner,” Hertwig said.
In the past, FOUR PAWS has temporarily taken in bears that were ultimately allowed to remain permanently in their new homes.
Eleven rescued bears at the Ukrainian sanctuary
BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was officially opened for visitors in October 2017. Including Laska, eleven bears rescued from catastrophic keeping conditions now live on the 7.7-hectare site. Over the next few years, the bear sanctuary will be further expanded to include 20 hectares of land, with space for up to 30 formerly suffering bears, once all construction work has been completed.
With the construction of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, FOUR PAWS has created a species-appropriate home for rescued bears, helping the Ukrainian government to enforce the ban on keeping baiting bears in the country. In order to train dogs for hunting, hounds are set on chained bears that can hardly defend themselves.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au